‘What If…?’ Episode 8 Review: “Ultron Wins”
What If…? is back with a brand new episode this week after a very silly and goofy previous episode. This week’s episode features our favorite AI gone wrong, Ultron, as his conquest ultimately proves victorious in this alternate reality. The Watcher’s eyes are set on him, as we ponder the question, What if… Ultron won? This episode is very different due to the implication behind it, but does it live up to previous stories? Let’s find out!
This episode of What If…? immediately stands out due to the elephant in the room. That elephant is that we’ve seen this Ultron before, specifically in the last episode. Given that premise, the episode seems to offer a new element late into the season with diverting into a possible crossover. While very exciting, it can go very wrong if not executed properly. Thankfully, it is executed to perfection. A better villain choice could have not been made other than Ultron in this regard. He feels menacing and truly deserving of exerting the incredible power he has. All it took was a single moment involving Thanos to really assert his threat to the audience in a tremendous way.
Another aspect that What If…? expands greatly upon this week is the scale of the events. Before it was limited to some planets within the galaxy, but Ultron went all out. The presentation and animation style involved in these sequences was splendid to watch. It featured great vibrancy and felt as if it brought more life to the destruction at hand. Adding to that is a great battle between The Watcher and Ultron that spans the multiverse and is just simply awesome. Last week featured a great-looking fight, but this one may take the cake with regard to the whole season.
This episode of What If…? also features Natasha and Clint at the forefront trying to stop Ultron. Although not really anything remarkable, it did have some brief moments that made for a great watch. One of those came in Clint’s last moments, as we get a callback to Natasha’s tragic death in Avengers: Endgame. After their story, the focus became on the Watcher yet again. Jeffrey Wright really does a fantastic job voicing the character and this episode was his finest hour. He had more material than any other episode, but you can really feel his performance coming through the whole episode. His reactions to being recognized yet again by another being, his fight sequence, and his plead to Doctor Strange Supreme really highlight his fantastic work.
The only gripe with the episode is actually a what-if scenario. What if… James Spader came back as Ultron? Now, him not being in the episode is not a deal-breaker by any means, but he is just that good. Ultron is one of the more menacing villains in the MCU and it’s greatly due to Spader’s terrific performance. It would’ve definitely added to this episode, but at that point, it’s just nitpicking and wishful thinking. Curiously, this episode also featured the least amount of returning MCU cast members. While it doesn’t feature many characters overall, there was a great opportunity to bring back more than just three.
What If…? fooled many for the majority of its initial season by positioning itself as a whole anthology series. As alluded to earlier, this is definitely not the case anymore. At the end of the episode, The Watcher is left with no other options but to solicit the help of one Doctor Strange Supreme. The show is positioning itself for the grandest of endings with a crossover. Marvel is no stranger to this, but it is definitely a different feeling when building up over a course of a season instead of a series of films. Add to it the fact that many of the characters are vastly different and enjoyed by fans and you have a recipe for a potentially special ending to the show’s initial season.
Overall, the eighth episode of What If…? is simply a setup for what seems to be an explosive finale in the works. While a setup indeed, it is an effective one at that. It sets the stakes properly and introduces a great threat in the form of this new version of Ultron. The Watcher was the stand-out in this last step onto the final showdown many have been waiting for. – Kenneth Colon